Plans to reinstate the Lewes to Uckfield rail line were branded a ‘piece of madness’ by one Labour county councillor.
The Brighton Mainline 2 (BML2) has been mooted as a way of increasing capacity between the south coast and London and proposals have found backing from across the political spectrum in East Sussex.
But Godfrey Daniel (Lab, Hastings - Braybrooke and Castle) said they should not be diverted by ‘mythical plans’ and suggested that electrification and dualling of the Marshlink Line between Hastings and Ashford was a worthier project at an East Sussex County Council Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
His intervention comes a week after East Sussex Lib Dems accused the Tory Government of ‘sitting on its hands’ over proposals, but Tory MP for Lewes Maria Caulfield hit back suggesting the Lib Dems had ‘got it wrong’.
Cllr Daniel said: “Lewes to Uckfield really, it’s been gone an awful long time and pieces have been built over. Let’s not go down that piece of madness.”
He said years before they had an ‘inquiry to end all inquiries’ where it had been shown that the scheme ‘did not stand up’.
Earlier in the meeting Rosalyn St. Pierre (LDem, Ringmer and Lewes Bridge) raised delays to the Newhaven Port Access Road scheme and called it a ‘shame’ with ‘Newhaven getting more and more sad’ due to businesses closing in the town centre.
She suggested that by reinstating the Lewes to Uckfield line it could offer another rail route from Newhaven to London through Lewes, bringing ‘real benefit to the local community’.
Rupert Clubb, director of communities, economy and transport, said that the benefit to cost ratio of 0.8 ‘did not offer value for money when the initial work was done’.
He suggested that electrification of the Marshlink route and the current Uckfield line, where diesel units are still in operation, could ‘potentially offer more bang for your buck’.
Last week Lib Dems attacked what they perceive as inaction from the Tories since last year’s general election following the progress they believe was secured by the former Lewes MP and ex-rail minister Norman Baker.
Baroness Randerson, the Lib Dems’ transport spokesperson, questioned the Government in Parliament on what action is planned between Lewes and Uckfield in the near future.
But Mrs Caulfield explained that a feasibility study was due to be published in the autumn and was optimistic it would be in favour of reopening the line.
She added: “Norman Baker accomplished little during his time as rail minister and I intend to take action as the people of the Lewes constituency have suffered from a poor train service for too long.
“Since taking office I have continually lobbied the Secretary of State and ministers about the merits of additional capacity through the opening of a second mainline to Lewes.”
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